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Basic Information

A tomb is a structure built for the burial of one or more corpses - the above ground type may be called a mausoleum instead and an underground tomb may be called a hypogeum1. The term sepulchre2 may also be used. There are many sub-categories dependent on the style of construction and even an underground tomb may have a substantial monument on the surface. There are also barrow like tombs that are essentially burials under an artificial hill wherein the actual interment may be at or below the original ground level.

Above ground tombs are popular where the ground is unsuitable for digging or prone to flooding, but many burying cultures prefer to dispose of their dead below ground level wherever possible - this may include horizontal tunnels into cliffs and hillsides. The dividing line between a large tomb and a small catacomb is hazy.

In cultures which provide grave goods for those they bury, a tomb may be a source of treasure for those prepared to rob it - and even those cultures which don't still run the risk of the corpse itself being stolen by those who desire such things.

The structure of the tomb is generally built to last, and as such, runs the risk of being inhabited by those that feel they have more use for it than a corpse does - this may be the undead (if such things exist), but can equally well be the living - both sapients (as in some modern Egyptian slums formed around the necropoli of Ancient Egypt) and non-sapients to whom it's nothing but a convenient shelter.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In most RPGs these prove to be either or both of lairs for enemies and places to steal things from.
  • A prominent tomb may also serve as a landmark or meeting place (as in Pyramus and Thisbe).
  • A community living in the tombs of a previous civilisation might be an interesting idea … especially if the original function of the buildings is not widely known.
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